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April 22, 2013

LePage sees no shame in going by the letter grade

By Michael Shepherd
mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

Who's "attaching shame"? Gov. Paul LePage, in his weekly radio address, foreshadowed the pending release of his proposed A-F grading system for Maine's public schools and took a swipe at Democrats in the process.

The Maine Department of Education has said it will roll out plans for the system, which LePage announced in his State of the State Address, by month's end.

Democrats on the Legislature's Education Committee have spoken out against the plan, saying it could serve to shame students at certain schools.

But LePage said Democrats are "attaching shame to the letter grades, not us."

"If grading our schools harms students, then why do we grade our students?" LePage said in his address. "Grades are earned, and just as our children have the ability to improve their grades, schools do as well. The goal here is to help every school earn an A."

SEEING 'THE LIGHT'

In an interview with WGME-TV released Friday, LePage linked federal gun control to the manhunt in the Boston Marathon bombings, criticizing President Obama for trying to pass "bad" gun-control legislation.

"Americans need to protect themselves: against the world, against terrorists in the world," LePage said. "I think there's probably an awful lot of Bostonians that saw the light this week."

The day LePage spoke, about 1 million people in Greater Boston were told to stay indoors. The city was essentially shut down as authorities tracked down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the bombings on April 15.

'FAIR SHARE' WEEK

Taxes will be a main focus of legislative work this week.

Starting on Tuesday, the Taxation Committee will hold public hearings on bills that would reinstate a top income tax rate of 8.5 percent. Different proposals call for that rate to apply at different levels.

Other bills call for raising the sales tax to support revenue sharing to municipalities and allowing a local-option tax on meals and lodging of as much as 2 percent.

Broader proposals to be heard include a concept bill by House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, to equalize the total state and local effective tax rates paid by low-income, middle-income and high-income payers, while finding $150 million to $250 million in tax revenue to pay for tax cuts championed by LePage and Republicans in 2011.

Given the hearings, which could have a large impact on the state's next two-year budget, it's no wonder that the Democrats' latest weekly address, given by Berry, highlighted taxation.

"It's time to close loopholes that make working and middle-class Mainers pick up the tab," he said. "And it's time we made it loud and clear to our chief executive. Both morally and economically, Maine deserves tax and budget policies that ask everyone to do their fair share."

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @mikeshepherdme





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